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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza

Friday, October 13, 2006

 

Accepting Autism

I copied this from a scanned copy of the paper today. The paragraphs are a little off in reformatting here.

COUNTERPOINT -- Today in The National Post
Accepting autism
Estee and HENRY WOLFOND


The article in last Saturday's Post headlined Redefining Autism grossly mischaracterized the mission of The Autism Acceptance Project and misrepresented
the role that we take in raising our autistic son. The premise that acceptance
of our son's autistic condition equates to acquiescence or denial is totally
misleading. Autism is a challenge. Our son works many hours with us,with speech language therapists, with occupational herapists and with his school teachers to learn and thrive in the world. We do everything we can to ensure him the brightest future possible- a future that will include autism.

Autism is a disability that needs to be accepted and accommodated in society
in the same way that ramps are provided for the wheelchair-bound and braille
is put on signs for the blind. We view it as a human rights issue. The focus of
The Autism Acceptance Project is promoting the objectives of gaining deeper
scientific understanding of autism and exploring methodologies to enhance
autistic potential through reciprocal education of both the autistic and nonautistic
populations. It is imperative that autistic individuals participate in
this dialogue. We advocate that more funding be applied to research the inherent
strengths and weaknesses of autistic people. Services and government financial support should be provided to accommodate autistic people. All policies must respect the dignity and intelligence of the autistic individual and their special needs.

While the title of The Autism Acceptance Project's exhibit and conference,
"The Joy of Autism: may be provocative,it is organizations that attack autism as a
disease to be beaten, the ones that focus on the "misery of autism" (Autism
Speaks, Defeat Autism Now, etc.), that undermine the opportunities for autistic
children to lead happy, productive lives. The message that war must be waged on
autism leads to prejudice against autistics. Despite their peculiar behaviour,
autistic people have intelligence, sensitivity and many other empirically documented
strengths. So long as we persist with the view that normalizing our children
is the ultimate goal, autistic people will continuously face stigma and discrimination. Misery proponents lead parents to believe that autism is attacking our children and needs to be eradicated. Parents are channeled in to a therapy that aimsto normalize behaviour - to make their children "inistinguishable from their
neurotypical peers." There is no accommodation for a parent who accepts that
his child may at times behave autistically, but who still wants to focus on developing inherent intellectual strengths.

If there is anything that could ravage our son Adam of which we are most fearful, it is this attitude that he is somehow diseased, insufficient or incomplete. As we evolve, let us all find a common language that supports parents and families so that our autistic children can be the best autistic children they can be. We work to achieve every possibility for our son. Adam works very hard to reciprocate, to become part of this world that judges him so harshly. To witness such an affectionate, charming child be viewed by society as less than human - in fact, "not human at all" - that is the tragedy.

National Post
estee@taaproject.com
I Estee and Henry Wolfond are
founders of The Autism Acceptance
Project.

7 Comments:

Blogger Ed said...

Your approach and your message is so pure and simple. How could anyone twist what you are saying?
And yet they do.
Sometimes something happens to people when they grow up thats sad.
They loose their ability to see stuff like what your saying and doing.
Their head may appear to be working right to most people but the problem is more a matter of how their heart is or ISNT working.
Thanks, Ed

9:21 AM  
Blogger Kristina Chew said...

I was just speaking to my classical civilization class about arete---often defined as "virtue" or "excellence"----but I often offer the translation of "the best that you can be." Let us then seek to foster arete in our lovely children.

10:21 AM  
Blogger notmercury said...

Wonderful letter Estee and I agree with Ed. It almost seems like some people are so intent on misreading or misunderstanding the message that they don't take the time to really think about it.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous kyra said...

yay to you! powerful counterpoint, estee, to a wrongful characterization that almost seems like it could have been a parady of the very narrow-mindedness you and this wonderful conference are shining the light of truth on.

i just read susan senator's post about her experience of the conference and if the enthusiasm, hope, connection, love, and feeling of openess is even a small bit of what the conference brought about in those lucky enough to attend, (and i'm sure it was!) you and henry must feel very proud. you are surely helping to shift the consciousness. thank you for your efforts.

maybe i'll be able to come next year?

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Camille said...

"While the title of The Autism Acceptance Project's exhibit and conference, "The Joy of Autism: may be provocative,it is organizations that attack autism as a disease to be beaten, the ones that focus on the "misery of autism" (Autism Speaks, Defeat Autism Now, etc.), that undermine the opportunities for autistic children to lead happy, productive lives. The message that war must be waged on autism leads to prejudice against autistics."

Estee, Give the man a big hug from me! I'm so glad the paper printed that part.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Thanks for your tremendous efforts, Estee. The fact that some have yet to appreciate your vision only means they haven't made a real attempt to understand it. Keep up the good work!

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Shawn said...

Your post made me think, for the first time, about the impact of the anti-autism rhetoric (Defeat Autism, Cure Autism, etc) on my 11 year old. He has enough challenges with self-esteem already. I need to make a point to talk with him about it to share a different perspective on these groups.

Fortunately he's surrounded by a lot of people with a positive attitude. A week ago, he spoke for the second time as part of a panel of autistic people ranging from age 11 to 25, sharing their experiences with autism.

I was very proud!

10:45 PM  

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